In the past three NFL drafts, 11 teams selected a quarterback in the first round, and 10 of those teams traded up to do so. The 11th team was the Cleveland Browns, which selected Baker Mayfield first overall last year. If a team wants a quarterback in the first round, they usually have to go and get their man.
A strange aspect of this year’s draft is that there’s little information about which teams are interested in going to get their man. The team that is believed to be most interested in a specific quarterback is the Cardinals, who already have a quarterback. Beyond Arizona, there is surprisingly little information about which teams are even in the market for a quarterback, never mind which one.
“It’s one of the most interesting drafts I’ve seen, because there is no chalk,” Gil Brandt told NBC Sports’ Peter King last week. “I think we’ll have [a] lot of the unknown right up to draft day.”
There are few prizes to be had in the first round, including Kyler Murray, Drew Lock, and Dwayne Haskins, while several other teams could wait to the later rounds or punt to next year. Let’s look at 11 potentially QB-needy teams and try to figure what their plans may be.
Teams That Need a Quarterback (but Might Wait Until 2020)
New York Giants
The Giants may seem like they’re content to stick with Eli Manning until Manning’s children are old enough to take over the job themselves, but believe it or not, co-owner John Mara is onboard with getting a quarterback this year.
”I would love to come out of this draft with a quarterback,” Mara told ESPN’s Jordan Ranaan in March.
The caveat is that this is the case only if there is a quarterback worth taking.
“If the top quarterbacks are graded toward the bottom of the first round or even the second round, I’m not going to insist that we take one at no. 6 or even at no. 17,” Mara said. “Show me what the value is. That’s always been our philosophy on that.”
So at least we know John Mara isn’t as impulsive as Jerry Jones. Not only could the Giants roll with Manning in 2019, which is the last year of his deal, but SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano reported the team was interested in extending Manning beyond 2019 if he plays well.
Miami needs a quarterback as bad as any team in the league after trading Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans for a seventh-round pick and some spare change last month. The only quarterbacks on Miami’s roster are Ryan Fitzpatrick and two sixth-round picks. But Dolphins owner Stephen Ross seems patient enough to wait another year before Miami makes a move.
”I would love for it to be two years, but you have to be realistic,” Ross told reporters of the team’s rebuild timeline.
While Dolphins GM Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores were not happy to hear the word “tanking” used by media members to describe the Dolphins approach in 2019, “Super Bowl contender” may not be the most accurate way to describe their roster this season, either.
Just 14 months ago, Washington signed Alex Smith to a four-year contract extension with $71 million guaranteed that would have him under contract until he turned 38. But after a forgettable string of performances to start his Washington career, Smith suffered a spiral leg fracture in Week 11 that became infected after surgery and has put his football future in doubt. Smith may not play at all this year and Washington may look to move on from him rather than bank on Smith returning in 2020 at 36 years old and playing at a higher level than he was in 2018.
For an immediate solution, Washington traded for Denver’s Case Keenum to compete for the 2019 starting gig with the friend-zoned Colt McCoy. To acquire Keenum, Washington merely swapped a 2020 sixth-rounder for a 2020 seventh-rounder and are paying him just $3.5 million in 2019. This year is the last year of both Keenum’s and McCoy’s deals. So while Washington has three quarterbacks (Smith, McCoy, and Keenum) none of them may suit up for the team beyond this year.
Teams That Want a Better Quarterback
Arizona’s interest in Kyler Murray is well known at this point, but here’s the short version: When Kliff Kingsbury was the head coach at Texas Tech last year, he said he would take Kyler Murray no. 1 overall if he were with an NFL team making the pick. Then the Cardinals hired Kingsbury, the video resurfaced, Murray chose the NFL over the MLB (a good choice), and signed Kingsbury’s agent to represent him. Cardinals GM Steve Keim was asked about all of this at the NFL combine, shrugged, and said Josh Rosen was the team’s quarterback “for now.” Then Josh Rosen deleted some Instagrams of him with the Cardinals and said he was hacked, and every reporter, blogger, and ball boy who left the combine in Indianapolis had heard that Arizona wanted Murray no. 1 overall.
Murray to Arizona is at the top of every mock draft. At this point, the surprise would be the Cardinals’ hanging onto Rosen, whom they traded up to draft no. 10 overall last year.
The Team That Will Not Draft a Quarterback (or Is Very Good at Lying)
There was a lot of speculation that Raiders coach Jon Gruden wanted to part with Carr after a disastrous 2019 season, but Gruden tried to put those rumors to bed at the NFL combine when he was asked about Derek Carr.
“He’s our franchise quarterback,” Gruden said. “Let me make that clear.”
It should be enough to kill the idea that the Raiders might trade up and take Kyler Murray, but Gruden has gone back on his word as Raiders coach before. Just last month, Gruden released Jordy Nelson despite saying, “Yeah, he’ll be back,” in his December 28 press conference. We can give Gruden the benefit of the doubt for now, but if the Raiders do draft a QB—whether for Murray or someone else—we’ll officially no longer be able to take Gruden at his word.
General manager Mike Mayock has already set the table for this reversal. Last week, Mayock said that while Carr is a franchise quarterback, the team could still improve at the position if the possibility arises.
“If we found somebody we liked better, or thought had a bigger upside, you’ve got to do the right thing for the organization,” Mayock said at his predraft press conference on Thursday. “But we love Derek. We love what he brings to the table. But like every other position, we’re going to do all of our due diligence. And I happen to work with a head coach that absolutely loves the position. And we’re always going to know about those guys.”
Teams That Don’t Need One Right Now, but May Want a Jump on Next Year
The Broncos just traded a fourth-round pick for Joe Flacco, and Denver president of football operations John Elway told reporters Flacco is still in his prime at 34 years old. Flacco seems like more of a stopgap option than a long-term one, but Elway has insisted he is a re-tooler, not a rebuilder, and he may not have the patience for a rookie’s learning curve. Elway was apparently impressed with Missouri’s Drew Lock at the Senior Bowl, but the Broncos reportedly did not request to interview Lock (nor Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, or Duke’s Daniel Jones) at the combine.
The Bengals aren’t looking for a new quarterback yet, but another tough year from Andy Dalton could convince them to replace him. Dalton’s contract expires after the 2020 season, and Bengals owner Mike Brown said at the NFL combine in February that he wanted to see Dalton in 2019 before working on an extension.
”I think it’s a good year for [Dalton] to show like he can, like we think he will,” Brown said. “After he re-establishes himself we would want to get together with him and see if we can extend [his contract].”
Dalton will turn 32 during the 2019 season. He has two years and $33.5 million left on his contract, though none of that money is guaranteed. Dalton’s deal is a reasonable expense for a league-average passer, but Cincinnati is in its first year with new head coach Zac Taylor, and Dalton may not have the track record to stick around if he has another injury-plagued campaign (or even if he has a healthy-but-eh season) in 2019. It’s unlikely the Bengals are the team that reaches for a quarterback they love, but it also might not be a bad move. There’s a good chance the team will miss the playoffs with another mediocre season that will encourage them to move on from Dalton, but still earn an even worse pick in next year’s draft than the no. 11 overall pick it holds in 2019.
“They Need a Quarterback Eventually,” We All Say for the Fifth Year in a Row
Yes, it is unlikely any of these teams replace their oldies this year, but it’s worth running through exactly why.
Roethlisberger is still among the league’s best quarterbacks. He led the NFL with 5,129 passing yards last season (at 36 years old). Before that campaign, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he wants to play “three to five more years.” The team drafted Mason Rudolph in the third round last year, and several of Roethlisberger’s former receivers have questioned the veteran signal-caller’s character recently.
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees turned 40 in January, but the Saints may already have their backup plan in place in case he calls it a career next year. Teddy Bridgewater went back to New Orleans on another one-year contract, and the Saints replaced Brees in the playoffs for do-it-all quarterback Taysom Hill on a few plays. Hill is the closest the NFL has to a Swiss army knife. In last year’s regular season, he was involved with five of six of New Orleans’s special teams units, was targeted seven times, and ran for 196 yards and two touchdowns. In the playoffs, he launched a deep ball against the Eagles that was as good as any Brees throw last year. Between Bridgewater and Hill, the Saints probably have their option on the roster, and they don’t have a pick until no. 62 overall after trading up for Marcus Davenport last year.
Los Angeles Chargers
Fox Sports’ Joel Klatt reported the Chargers were interested in Josh Rosen, albeit just how interested they were is unknown. If they don’t trade for Rosen, another QB seems unlikely. L.A. hasn’t drafted a quarterback since 2013 when they took Brad Sorensen out of Southern Utah in the seventh round.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick will not draft a quarterback to replace Tom Brady. He’ll take a page out of the Night King’s playbook and harvest a human baby’s soul.